Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Few Videos of the Real Tardar Sauce (a.k.a., Grumpy Cat)

I adore these videos of Tardar Sauce (a.k.a., Grumpy Cat). She has become a worldwide sensation, and she is quite rightly described as the World's Most Famous Cat (at least for the moment).

If you're on Facebook, like me, you know that Grumpy Cat memes are a dime a dozen. A few of them are amusing (rarely laugh-out-loud funny, but amusing). Most are just juvenile and stupid. A few are even mildly offensive, although not being a member of the PC Police, I shrug those off and keep scrolling down the newsfeed.

Most of the Grumpy Cat memes show a grouchy, bitter cat spewing out caustic one-liners. These videos, however, show a very different kind of cat, one that's quiet and gentle and living a pleasant life.

It's great that Grumpy Cat has caused such a worldwide stir, but the online version is a caricature in the tradition of Archie Bunker, Oscar the Grouch and Scrooge. I suppose, for whatever reason, that's what the masses want now, and Tardar appears to be a big hit. But, being a hardcore cat lover, I hope this sweet little kitty is able to avoid some of the more negative pitfalls of being a global superstar.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Must-See Video About Circus Elephants with Alec Baldwin

This is a superb PETA video on animals in circuses, hosted and narrated by actor Alec Baldwin. There is an excellent interview in the video with a longtime veterinarian Dr. Mel Richardson, who has worked with elephants in circuses for over 40 years. Please have a look at this video. It's not very long and it's quite informative.

A Gore-Free Video That Says It All

Please show this to your friends and family who are meat eaters. It is a gore-free video. It shows a cow shedding tears over the horrific fate he is about to experience. I quote from the wonderful Facebook page Animal Rights Activist:

This 34 second footage clearly shows a beautiful, sweet cow shedding tears in the seconds before slaughter. There's no blood or guts in this film so if you eat meat, it's something you can watch. Animals have the same feelings and desires we do. They long for life and love their children. They know love and feel pain, suffering, sadness and terror... just like we do. Reconnect your heart to life and respect for everyone we share this planet with. It just makes no sense to savagely destroy an innocent creature for 20 minutes of taste bud pleasure. We hope you will watch and realize that no amount of personal pleasure is worth taking an innocent life over.

There is no reason to continue this brutality and violence. It is time to end the Dark Ages that animals have been subjected to for so long. The only way possible to bring an end to these tragedies is to go vegan. How many millions - ultimately billions - of cows and pigs and chickens have wept as their lives have been violently taken away from them? This is mass murder on a gargantuan scale. The question is: Are we going to allow it to continue? Or are we going to move on to the next phase of our evolution and insist on treating animals with respect and dignity, and not as commodities?

The decision rests with humanity.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Words of Wisdom

"I had never seen a slaughterhouse before. My blood ran cold. This didn't just turn me into a vegetarian. It turned me into a genuinely compassionate human being. I ultimately became vegan when I aw what happens to millions of chickens - their beak burned off, millions of tiny male chicks being hurled to their death into grinders, premature calves being deliberately induced and being killed by crushing to death. It is a so tiresome to hear the hideous lies and self delusion from those who profit from this ghastly trade. I am a vegan because I love life in all its forms."
- Philip Wollen

The Most Thrilling Thing on the Golf Channel Since it Went On the Air!

A three-legged alligator on the fairway? You heard it here first, folks!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Five Reasons for Animal Rights Activists to be Hopeful

It occurred to me that my post yesterday contained some pessimistic observations about the human race. Whenever this blog features despairing observations, I like to counter with a more hopeful follow-up. There are plenty of reasons why Animal Rights advocates should be hopeful.

Here are five!

1. In the Flushing section of New York's Queens borough, Public School 244 (pictured right) has gone vegan! All of its meals are now completely free of animal products. This occurred in response to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's noble attempts to make New York City a more health-conscious metropolis. And guess what? Apparently the switch has been a big hit with the kids! As one 9-year-old put it: "This is good. I'm enjoying that it didn't have a lot of salt in it." In addition to P.S. 244 going vegan, more than a thousand local schools - at Bloomberg's urging - have switched to whole grain breads and pastas and now have salad bars. (Source)

2. The number of vegans in the United States is on the rise! A study commissioned by the Vegetarian Resource Group in 2012 found that the number of Americans identifying themselves as vegans was 2.5%, a sharp increase from the 1% of self-identifying vegans in 2009. In other words, in that three-year period, the number of vegans in the United States more than doubled! As I've said on this blog many times before: Our numbers are growing all the time! (Source)

3. On May 1, Vietnam Airlines stopped shipping primates for research purposes. "Even though Vietnam Airlines has never been in breach of international regulations governing the transportation of live animals," a V.A. statement said, "we decided to stop transporting primates destined for experimental purposes from May 1, 2013. The relevant operation manual shall be deployed system wide by Vietnam Airlines to ensure this decision." (Source)

4. Here in Canada, every major grocery chain in the country has now pledged to stop buying pork from farms that use gestation crates. This is a huge breakthrough victory that shows how much clout animal rights activists have in this country. As Twyla Francois of Mercy for Animals Canada quite rightly stated: "We are pleased that retailers have finally listened to their ethically-minded customers and are taking action to end the abusive practice of confining pigs in tiny metal crates so small the animals cannot even turn around, walk or lie down comfortably for nearly their entire lives." Moreover, restaurant chains such as McDonalds and Tim Horton's have also pledged to no longer purchase from farms that use gestation crates. (Source)

5. More encouraging news from Canada: In April, the General Court of the European Union, based in Luxembourg, upheld a three-year-old ban on seal products from Canada and Norway. This policy has inflicted tremendous damage on one of this country's most vicious rackets, our sorry equivalent of the Latin American cocaine trade. Despite the ban, this gruesome, vicious, bloodthirsty seal hunt continues. More than 70,000 seals were murdered in 2012, and that number jumped to 76,000 in this season. Dismayed by the E.U.'s decision, a representative from the Ottawa-based Seals and Sealing Network issued a statement: "It's bad news for the seal industry, but it's even worse news for other industries. If they're starting to ban products based on so-called moral issues, then who's next? Is it lobster because boil them? Beef? Pork?"


This Pretty Much Says It All...

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Of Film Footage and Animals

I'll never forget my family's first video camera. My dad purchased it 30 years ago from an electronics store in Salt Lake City called Stokes Brothers. When I got that thing, I went around shooting movies everywhere: in the backyard; at family picnics; in the basement rec room. You name it, I shot videos. Now I look back and watch them and they're documents of a happy time - of laughter, of family getting together, of memorable moments, of days long past but never forgotten.

Video cameras - or camcorders or movie cameras or whatever they're referred to in the parlance of the times - have been an extraordinary invention, used to capture histories both personal and on a grand scale. The 20th Century was the first "filmed" century - cameras existed from one end of the century to the other - and the film footage we have of those one hundred years is nothing short of incredible. Some of it, such as the 1945 Victory in Europe celebrations across America or the 1969 moon landing are incredibly inspiring. Other films, such as war footage, or the shooting of a Viet Cong prisoner during the 1968 Tet Offensive in Vietnam, or the '89 Tiananmen Square protests, or the Rodney King beating, or the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

And then there is the issue of animals and videos. What will historians say 100 years from now about the movies we shot of animals? How will the ways in which we film animals be remembered?

The answer to that question depends on the films of animals that survive our times. Certainly, Hollywood has churned out lots of sentimental films, especially movies about dogs such as Lassie Come Home (1943) and Marley and Me (2008). Hollywood films about other species of animals also abound, including horses (The Black Stallion, Seabiscuit), cats (That Darn Cat, Harry and Tonto), pigs (Charlotte's Web, Babe). The list goes on and on.

But I'm not really talking about Hollywood films here. I'm talking about films used by animal rights activists that depict the treatment of animals in our society, often showing a darker side to how human beings interact with animals.

Example 1: Recently, there were two big developments around the issue of filmed animal footage that are worth noting. The first occurred on April 22 when U.S. District Court Judge Sim Lake in Texas decided that so-called "animal crush videos" - showing the torture and killing of animals - are protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Judge Lake dismissed charges against Ashley Nicole Richards and Brent Justice, who allegedly made films showing all kinds of animals - chickens, puppies, mice and kittens - being tortured to death. Judge Lake conceded "the acts depicted in animal crush videos are disturbing and horrid," yet they are "still considered protected speech."(Source)

Example 2: Salt Lake City, Utah. My hometown. In February, Amy Meyer, standing on public property, used the video camera on her cell phone to film the brutal treatment of cows at a slaughterhouse in Draper Utah. She was charged for committing a crime under Utah's new Ag-Gag laws. Thankfully, the case was dismissed when Meyer received a lot of nationwide attention. At the time she was charged, in late April, Meyer issued the following statement:

I visited the Smith Meatpacking Slaughterhouse in Draper, Utah because I have heard numerous reports that any bystander standing on the public thoroughfare could witness the horror of cows struggling for their lives as they were led to their violent deaths. What I saw was upsetting, to say the least. Cows being led inside the building struggled to turn around once they smelled and heard the misery that awaited them inside. I saw piles of horns scattered around the property and flesh being spewed from a chute on the side of the building. I also witnessed what I believe to be a clear act of cruelty to animals – a live cow who appeared to be sick or injured being carried away from the building in a tractor, as though she were nothing more than rubble. At all times while I documented this cruelty, I remained on public property. I never once crossed the barbed wire fence that exists to demarcate private and public property. I told this to the police who were on the scene.  I am shocked and disappointed that I am being prosecuted by Draper City simply for standing on public property and documenting horrific animal abuse while those who perpetrated these acts are free to continue maiming and killing animals. It is my understanding that the Mayor of Draper co-owns this slaughterhouse.  
Amy Meyer (Source)

I am convinced the only reason Amy Meyer's case was dismissed was because she was getting lots of nationwide attention. Had she been sentenced to jail time, she would have become a martyr for the anti-Ag-Gag Movement.

But take a good look at these two cases. One in Texas, the other in Utah. What do they say about our species? Taken together, they are a damning indictment of the human race. On the one hand, filming the torture of animals for some sort of perverse thrill or pleasure is protected under the United States Constitution. On the other hand, filming the horrific treatment of animals in slaughterhouses and factory farms is prohibited by Ag-Gag laws, which - shockingly - are not regarded as violations of the First Amendment.

There are dangerous and potentially very horrifying precedents being set here. Both of them show a callous - one might even use the word "psychotic" or "evil" - disregard for the well being of animals. The message that these cases convey is abundantly clear: The lives of animals do not matter. Worse, in destroying their lives, it is perfectly acceptable to torture them to death in unbelievably horrific ways, the way a serial killer might torture a human being to death. If that torture is being captured on film to educate and mobilize people to act to change this treatment, then filming is banned. By contrast, if that torture is being filmed to satisfy the twisted fetish of sick, perverted, psychotic individuals, then filming such scenes is perfectly acceptable.

The time has come to get militant about animal rights. No more fucking around (excuse the foul language). War has been declared, not by animal rights activists, but by the institutions that are put in place to justify, sanction and use coercion to maintain the mass murder of these beings. Make no mistake: We are living in times that will be remembered in history books as the Dark Ages for Animals.

But this does not need to be the case. Imagine creating the kind of society where the videos and films we shoot of animals show beings living happy, blissful lives. Such videos and films do exist! Look at any film shot inside of a farm sanctuary and you'll see happy animals, living the way animals are meant to live. Leave it to human beings, who have shown us the worst sort of depravity imaginable, to also teach us the noblest ways imaginable to treat our fellow sentient beings.

Therein lies the contradictions, the paradoxes, of our species. We are the most brutal and violent of all animals, yet we have the potential within us to be the kindest and gentlest of all animals. Remember when you were five or six or seven or eight, and you used to visit the petting zoo, and you loved animals and you could never dream of hurting these wonderful personalities?

We need to reclaim that beauty and that innocence. The price of not reclaiming it was revealed in late April, when a judge ruled that filming torture for pleasure was OK, while a few states over, around the same time, a city laid criminal charges against a heroic individual filming animal torture in order to end it.

What does this say about our species?